Jamie Oliver seems to irritate a lot of people in the celebrity-cook and cheffy* world, but for a hard-working home cook like me, he's a hero. I love his simple, hearty, lip-smacking recipes. Oliver understands that I don't have the time or energy to to faff around preparing platesful of pretentious, vertically stacked food nestling in jus, or topped off with clouds of almond air. I also take my hat off to him for his effort to shake up the quality of crappy school dinners, and to encourage disadvantaged (and often incredibly loutish) kids to consider a career in cooking.
Anyway, here is my version of Oliver's lekker baked butternut recipe, which I took from his book Cook With Jamie . I've adjusted the recipe for family tastes (I left out the red chilli flakes, cut down a bit on the spicing, and instead of a cup of cream used half thick Greek yoghurt and half cream) but it was still astonishingly good.
Jamie Oliver's Baked Butternut
1 large butternut squash, unpeeled
3 tablespoons (45 ml) olive oil
1/2 teaspoon (2.5 ml) coriander seeds, crushed
1 tablespoon (15 ml) fresh thyme leaves (I used fresh oreganum)
salt and milled black pepper
1/2 cup (125 ml) cream
1/2 cup (125 ml) plain white yoghurt
1/2 cup (125 ml) white wine
1/3 of a nutmeg, grated
1 cup grated Parmesan (Grana Padano or Pecorino will do)
Preheat the oven to 180°C. Cut the butternut into 1-centimetre-thick slices, using a heavy cleaver or knife. Cut each slice in two, and scrape out and discard any seeds or pulp. Don't bother peeling the butternut. Put the butternut into a suitably sized oven-proof ceramic dish (the chunks should fit into the dish in a single layer. Jamie emphasises that they should be tucked up closely against one another). Pour the olive oil over the pieces, add the coriander, the thyme and the salt and pepper, and, using your hands, toss well to coat. Cover the dish with a piece of tin foil and bake for 30-40 minutes, or until the butternut is tender. In the meantime, whisk the cream, yoghurt and white wine together in a bowl. Stir in the nutmeg and half the Parmesan. Taste the mixture, and add more salt and pepper if necessary.
When the butternut is tender, remove it from the oven, drain off any liquid by tipping the dish over the sink, and pour over the cream mixture. Sprinkle the remaining Parmesan on top. Put the dish back in the oven and cook for 10-15 minutes longer, or until the dish is bubbling hot and browned on top.
Serves 6 as a side dish.
* An example: Michelin-starred chef Michel Roux has said, snottily, of Jamie: "He's served the purpose of being able to bring young people to understand that food is something to enjoy and even cook for themselves. But when someone tells me he's a chef I just say 'You're joking'."
My rating: 7/10
My Significant Other's rating: Not at home tonight.
Teenagers' rating: 'We're not hungry, honest, mom. We had 20 peanut butter sandwiches at 5 pm'
Small-daughter rating: 5/10 ('I think I might like pumpkin')